Live Review: Full Stack Music Event

16th June 2016

The festival season has just kicked off and early June saw the second event of the on-going series of AEI Group’s Full Stack Music nights, on the evolution of festivals.
Located in the heart of London’s creative scene at the atmospheric Red Gallery, Shoreditch, over 50 of the brightest minds in the music and media industry headed down to the event to learn about how the festival and events scene is changing, particularly in the world of digital.
Aptly titled, The Evolution of Festivals, the panel was made up of Steve Jenner, Director of PlayPass UK, Sarah Cole, Director and Talent Booker at AEI Live, Julia Bruns, Director of OurKidBrother LTD and Grant Smith, Director at Slammin’ Events, making for an interesting discussion about how the industry has changed and which challenges these established promoters have faced in the age of digital. Commercial director of AEI Group, Matt Dicks and creator of I Am Music Carly Wilford, acted as moderators for the evening, a super-savvy and knowledgeable yet funny and friendly duo who know how to get the most out of a panel.
Before the panel kicked off, we were treated to a 15-minute set from Peta Oneir, a London-based singer-songwriter. Peta’s music provided the perfect vibesy start to the night with an atmospheric dub sound with nods to reggae.
Following the set, the evening naturally flowed into introductions of the panellists before conversation got in full swing. Discussion points covered everything from the use of data and social media to how to work with less ‘cool’ brands.
 
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Data was a hot topic during the evening with moderators Matt and Carly pressing the panellists on how they use ticket data, in particular. In terms of booking artists, this is where the data becomes useful to use as audience insight but panellists agreed that it is actually not all down to data, and human touch and gut instinct is still vital when booking talent. Both expanded on how it is detrimental to rely on an artist’s social media presence as the reach could be completely irrelevant to your country’s reach.
Further to this, other panels were asked how they reach a new audience. All four agreed that while data capturing is important to advertise on the right social media channels, if you are good enough, the audience will find you. Everyone also agreed that you should never underestimate word of mouth, even in a world of digital.
Conversation turned to discussing the main changes the panel has seen over the years and something everyone agreed on was booking talent. If you consider that festivals have gone from around five a year in the UK twenty years ago to around 750 now, you can see that that is a lot of line-ups to curate. Grant explained that nowadays many headline artists are under exclusivity terms where they can’t play another festival which can really limit who you’re able to book. In regards to booking smaller talent, there’s the weigh up between watching a new artist thrive to booking someone who doesn’t have the presence or replicate their music on stage. It seems like it is a tough call to make.
Meanwhile, another problem the events industry has faced is drop-off from ticket buyers at events, which simply didn’t happen 20 years ago. Speculating on why that is, reasons included the fact that you can get cheaper tickets at early bird pricing or with payment plans and a more disposable income means that this money isn’t seen as a waste, as well as events being less precious than they used to be.  To put this into context, there’s around a 10% drop-out from early bird ticket buyers.
A really interesting takeaway from the night was the difference of working with particular brands – for example the popularity of Redbull vs say, Philip Green. Julia said she’d never shut the door in a brand’s face but figure out the best way to work with them so that their name doesn’t affect the popularity of the festival or event.

Questions at the end covered everything from drug testing to how to break into the industry. The momentum carried through the rest of the evening with the guests swapping thoughts and business cards over their beers.
The event was different from many other panels I’ve been to, it was informative but relaxed, lively and funny and the live music act really brought another dimension.
AEI Group has said the next event will be in September so if you fancy attending then you keep an eye out for the next event here.
 
Words by Joanna Green

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